musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Thames

Photo Essay: The Navigators

In 2008 when I was in London one of the places I passed through was Hays Galleria, a re-imagined development that is on the site of the former Hay’s Wharf. 

It is not the sort of place that interests me, being filled with coffee shops and trendy boutiques and barrows selling souvenirs of London.

However, it is also home to a statue entitled “The Navigators” by David Kemp, that was erected in 1987. 

It is really reminiscent of something out of Monty Python and a steampunk vision of an early steamship. That is what draws me to Hays Galleria.


“Aah, it’s all very well, but what does it do?” I hear you ask.

Like most art it doesn’t do much, it just hangs around and looks decorative. Although it does actually move and spray water and is quite impressive when seen “under sail”.

It is wonderful quirky piece that appears to have been cleaned up since i saw it in 2013, although I do think it would have been even more impressive if it had “a part that goes “Parp” going “Parp” (Thanks Terry Pratchett). 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 17/06/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:09

Going to see the RMS

When  it was announced that the RMS St Helena would be calling in London and berthing alongside HMS Belfast my first thought was: “Who do I know in London who could get me some pics?” and my second was: “I need a break, why don’t I go to London and get the pics myself!” So I sat down and did a feasibility study. I live about 2,5 hours by rail to London but cannot travel there directly, and have to do it via Cheltenham. The other problem was accommodation; it is not cheap to stay in a hotel there, they are pricey and do not really cater for singles. Yet, I managed to organise it all, got the leave and on the morning of the 7th of June I was on my way to see my ship. Arrival time had been given at 16H45, but that could change, considering how far she had come from. 

Paddington Station is quite an experience, I had never been there before so it was all new to me. It was also the station that the Great Western Railway established as the end point for their trains into London. 

It was also where a famous Bear from Peru arrived one fine day…. 

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear

I had a rough and ready schedule that I had made, and it included Kensal Green and St Mary’s Cemetery, The Imperial War Museum,  The Victoria and Albert Museum, Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial and possibly Bunhill Fields Cemetery. The only fixed part of my schedule was the RMS arrival. That was cast in stone.  

After finding my hotel and dropping off my luggage I hit the tube, I had at least 5 hours to kill before  I had to be at Tower Bridge and decided that Bunhill Fields was *on the way”, and I bailed out at Moorgate Station and proceeded to get lost…. 

Winding forward to roughly 13H30. It was getting cloudier and things were looking decidedly poor weatherwise. I was now at Tower Bridge and had confirmation that the bridge would be opened at 16H45 for the ship so she was not too far away, probably still at Tilbury.

I had some time to kill and headed off to the Imperial War Museum where I got caught in the rain. I killed time there and then headed back to the bridge and grabbed a quick bite to eat. The rain had reduced itself to a drizzle and there was a chance it would even clear. Time was approaching and I still had not decided where to wait the ship out. The problem was, once the bridge was raised I was stranded on that bank of the Thames.

I ended up on the Tower of London side and stayed there, chatting to a fellow ship buff who had come to see her. Bridge raising time arrived and passed, but the ship buff confirmed she was on her way and had cleared the Thames Barrier. And then…..

That first glimpse of the RMS after so many years was a very emotional moment. I had sailed on her in 1993,  and since then I had changed jobs, moved house many times, gone through all manner of odd things and she had carried on ploughing her furrow to the Island of St Helena. I had seen her when she was almost brand new, it was now 25 year later and she was on her last voyages. 

She was escorted by two tugs, the ZP Bear and SD Seal, which may have come from Tilbury.  As she started to come closer the sirens started and the bridge we were standing on started to open to allow her through. I will be honest I did not notice too much of what was happening behind me at this point.

And then she was starting to pass under the raised roadway and I had to change position

I headed back across to the other side of the bridge which is not as easy as it sounds as there are railings (and traffic) quite far back along the bridge. By the time I got to the other side she was already through.

I threaded my way down to street level and towards the area opposite HMS Belfast, but you can only see the ship up to a point before it gets hidden by the river cruise boat piers; I really had to get past those to get a better look. But alas quite a few people had the same idea as I had.

A lot of people standing here were all past passengers on board her, the one person had been on her 6 times! 

HMS Belfast is more than a match for her sizewise and interestingly enough both of these ships were built in Britain!  

It was time for me to return to my hotel. As much as I wanted to stay I still had to check in, and I was tired and hungry and we were into peak hour on the tube.  I said my goodbyes, but knew I would be back on the next day. There was still one image I wanted.

The next day.

I returned to the Thames after my mammoth Kensall Green excursion, and via St Paul’s Cathedral and a rain storm.  I wanted a pic  from bow on of these two ships.


And then it was time to say my goodbyes to her. It was sad to see her knowing that she is in her last days. She is unique and can never be replaced. She will however live on in the memories of those who sailed on her and the people of St Helena.  This small ship literally kept an island alive, she is being replaced like so many others by a jet aircraft and things will never be the same again.

I am glad I sailed on her, I am sad I never sailed on her twice, or 6 times. But oddly enough she was the ship that appeared in my dreams the most.

Fair weather for your voyage home RMS St Helena, and for the final voyage that you will make. You will be missed.

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS has been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti, she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 09/06/2016

Updated: 17/04/2018 — 18:45

Heading to Reading

This fine morning I grabbed my gear and headed out to Reading. My recent trips to that city en-route to elsewhere made me curious about what I could see, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised.  On my list of possible targets was Reading Abbey, the old cemetery, St Giles and St Marys Churches, any war memorials, and of course anything else that caught my eye (or lens).
The cemetery has 205 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and 41 of the 1939-1945 war. in it, so I could have quite a lot of ground to cover. Weatherwise it was sunny when I left Basingstoke, but it got cloudy once I was in Reading, so much so that at one point I thought I was going to be caught in a rain shower.  
My first goal was St Laurence Churchyard, the church is situated next to the Town Hall, and is not too far from the station. I had a rough plan of my route so knew more or less what I was going, and of course I had my phone with in case I got lost. 
The Town Hall

The Town Hall

I have to admit St Laurence was a great exploration. It has a fantastic churchyard with a lot of very interesting graves. Unfortunately though, they were building a road in the middle of the street so some of my access was cut off from the park next door.
The park interested me because it bounded on the ruins of Reading Abbey,  and I was hoping that I could pass through the ruins and go around the prison to get to the route I needed to follow to find the cemetery. 
After a slight detour, and an attempt to buy some food at a local supermarket I found myself faced with the Cenotaph (which stands at the entrance to Forbury Park), which was great news because I had not really done much research as to where the main war memorial was in the city.
The park, Forbury Gardens,  is a pretty one, with a bandstand and lots of trimmed grass and pathways. It is also home to a very special memorial:
“This monument records the names and commemorates the valour and devotion of XI (11) officers and CCCXVIII (318) non-commissioned officers and men of the LXVI (66th) Berkshire Regiment who gave their lives for their country at Girishk Maiwand and Kandahar and during the Afghan Campaign MDCCCLXXIX (1879) – MDCCCLXXX (1880).”

“History does not afford any grander or finer instance of gallantry and devotion to Queen and country than that displayed by the LXVI Regiment at the   Battle of Maiwand on the XXVII (27th) July MDCCCLXXX (1880).” (Despatch of General Primrose.) 

Known as the Maiwand Lion, it is a very big memorial, and definitely the largest lion I have ever seen. Unfortunately the sun was behind it so pics just did not work out the way they could have. In fact the sun was to prove problematic for most of the morning as it kept on dancing between the clouds. I returned to Reading on 3 March and was able to obtain a better image of the lion as seen below.

Seeing the Abbey seemed to be problematic as the site was closed on safety grounds, and given that the building dates from around AD1121, I can see that there may be a problem, however, it is very frustrating to be so close to history like that and not being able to access it.

The one part of the Abbey complex that still survives is the Abbey Gate, and it is a very nice structure, but again it faced in an awkward direction.
It was looking to be somewhat of a frustrating morning. I decided to head for the cemetery, passing the very pretty St James Church which is between the park and the prison.


The church opened in 1840 and it now serves as a Catholic Church for the multicultural community in Reading. Surprisingly a small corner of the graveyard still exists, although it has been “rationalised” and there is no real way for knowing how big it was before. Unfortunately HMP Reading was not accessible, and the high walls meant the only pic I would get would be of high walls.

The route I was now walking took me along the very busy Kings Road which merged into an intersection with London Road  where the cemetery was located. 

The cemetery was first opened in 1834 and there are 18327 grave spaces covering 4,7 Hectares.  There were originally two chapels but both have been demolished, and at first glance the cemetery seemed like a bit of a hodge-podge mess. However, as I penetrated deeper into it the layout began to make a bit more sense.

Like many of these older cemeteries it does support a wide range of fauna and flora, and I believe there is even a species of deer that lives in it, and I actually saw one on my next visit, but was unable to get a pic. I also saw raptors flying overhead, so there must be food for them in the cemetery.  To maintain the status quo of conservation, the grass is cut 6 times a year. The gatehouse/office is a very pretty building, although it must have been somewhat of a squeeze when it came to navigating through here with a horse drawn hearse.


And while my pics show sunlight, that only happened after I had completed photographing most of the graves I was after! The cemetery is actually quite a nice one, with lots of pre 1900 headstones in it. Parts are as wild as some of the wilder ones that I have seen, but generally it was a pleasant place to gravehunt in. I managed to get most of the graves I was after except for 43. I also found some private memorials that I have submitted, and these are equally important as they often contain the only physical grave that there is if a body was not recovered from the battlefield. (I have since been able to add an additional 24 graves from the list to my tally, as well as 8 more private memorials.)

Then it was time to head off to my next destination which was back in the direction I had come from but via London Road.

The "Swimming Bath"

The “Swimming Bath”

I had arbitrarily selected suitable places as I saw them mentioned as being worthy of seeing, and naturally everything along the way was a bonus. My first target was St Giles-in-Reading Church, and the second was St Mary-the-Virgin.
St Giles-in-Reading

St Giles-in-Reading

St Mary-the-Virgin

St Mary-the-Virgin

Both were really beautiful buildings with wonderful graveyards that I explored. However, on my way to these buildings I also spotted this beaut which is used by the Polish community.

Overall though the area I was walking through had really reverted from a residential area to more of a business area, the grand old houses now occupied by dentists and accountants. The shortage of student accommodation also meant that many properties had been subdivided and now had a new lease on life. 

The Hospital building was magnificent, more reminiscent of a town hall than a hospital.  Like many other buildings from that age it was now probably overwhelmed by the role it had, and it must have been very interesting to see on the inside (although preferably not as a patient).

My meanderings would eventually lead me to the Kennet and Avon Canal which I had first encountered when I visited Bath in 2014, I will admit that the inner workings of the canal did interest me, but I was really lacking the expertise to comment on where I was in the system at the point where I now stood.

Theoretically though, had I followed this portion of the Kennet River I would have come out at the River Thames, and had I followed the Thames would have ended up in London.

The area I was now moving into was where St Mary-the-Virgin was situated, and it was really the last area I wanted to explore before heading home. The church itself was very nice, with a graveyard that seems to be ignored by the public at large who use the path as a thoroughfare, and it is nice to see how these small green spaces have become a part of the community.

The area though is quite busy, with lots of buses and taxis hithering and thithering their collective ways. I paused for lunch and a potty break before taking some last pics and heading for the station (assuming I could find it).

The monument was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne, and there is a nice statue of her close to the Town Hall.


This area of Reading was really nice, the buildings are oldies with a new face, and generally it has much more of a personal feel than the mall close by. Unfortunately for them most malls lack character, and I like character in an area instead of glitz and glamour. Unfortunately though it also means that many older areas become seedy as the inevitable cellphone cover, overpriced fake trainers and junk jewelry businesses move in. But, sometimes I am wrong.

Realistically though, you need to view a lot of these areas as they may have been 100 years ago to fully appreciate a city like Reading, although it would have been tainted by the smog and smoke of industrial progress and transportation. Times have changed, and we are now in a different world and in a different era, but it is nice to see these old survivors of progress still standing next to the chrome and glass of “progress”.

The station awaited, and by 14H40 I was on my way home. 

It had been an interesting morning, I have a better feel for Reading now, and while it is unlikely that I will pass this way again it was nice to be able to look around here. Many years ago when I wanted to move to the UK this town had been the centre where many in IT headed when they arrived here, I don’t know if that is still true, but given its location it is a handy midway point between East and West, and of course access to London. Personally I don’t think I could live here, but I would not mind exploring more of the river system, but somehow that is unlikely to happen.

© DRW 2015-2018. Created  24/02/2015, images migrated 26/04/2016 

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:29

Preserved ships: Steam Tug Challenge.

One of the more interesting ships in Southampton is the steam tug Challenge; that made its home in the port after the Maritime Festival in May.  The first glimpse I had of her was while she was moving prior to the Maritime Festival.


A ship from a different age? Definitely. I won’t go into the history of the tug, that’s something best left to her own website.  In short she was built in 1931, and is actually one of the few Dunkirk survivors that still exists today.  Originally coal burning, she has been converted to burn oil and she has had a lot of work done on her to keep her afloat.

Her berth at the Maritime Festival just happened to be where I was standing, so I got some really strange images of her as she came around Shiedlhall’s bow, leading a flotilla of small boats and other vessels participating in the festival. 
Like Shieldhall she was a working vessel, and as such has all the appurtenances associated with being a working ship. I was hoping to get on board her at least once during the festival, and in the programme it was mentioned that she would be blowing her whistle on a number of occasions. Unfortunately her arrival whistle blow did not impress at all.

Later that afternoon I got on board, and she is much smaller than I expected so photography was cramped and difficult.



Her wheelhouse is small and cramped and with more than two people inside must have really been a squeeze. She has this large helm with a smaller on on a shaft, and these are both connected to a steering engine directly behind the wheelhouse. Originally the wheelhouse would not have been enclosed, and she would have had a pair of lifeboats, instead of the one she now has.
It is hard to believe that she survived that period in her life, far from the sheltered waters of the Thames, although she was no stranger to cross channel voyages. However, I don’t think those voyages were as comfortable as life on the Thames. 
Most of her machinery is still steam powered, and the new oil burning boilers ensure that she will not suffer an embarrassing stoppage due to a lack of coal; something that is facing heritage rail operators.  
Her aft deck is taken up by the engine room skylight and even here there isn’t too much space. The equipment  associated with her towage, consists of a twin hook assembly between the two companionway. I am not sure whether were larger strongbacks across her aft deck, they may have been removed at some point 

I did take another image which I was looking at and there may be a set of hooks between the companionways leading to the upper deck.

She has a triple expansion 1150hp steam plant below decks, and it was running rather slowly so we could see it in motion, however, getting any photographs was impossible as the engine room was blocked with people gazing at that beating heart of hers.

 Her modern boilers perform the same function as her original coal fired boilers, but probably much more efficiently and with much less smoke or crew required. I must admit I would have liked to have seen her belching smoke, but I expect  that there is some strange health and safety regulation that prevents it entering the atmosphere.
Sadly this magnificent whistle did not perform to my expectations, but at least she doesn’t have that strange siren like Shieldhall has.  
I do regret not being able to get more images of her interiors, but given the crowds swarming over her and their inability to actually stop blocking the view I missed quite a lot. But then, as I mentioned before, she is a working vessel so luxury and frivolity were left out in favour of function and purpose.
Sometime during the last week of May they shifted her to just before the City Terminal, bordering Mayflower Park and she is snoozing there now, a pretty relic from an age gone by quietly enjoying her retirement.
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 08/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:03

Ships on the Thames

Many years ago the Thames was a thriving waterway, with barge traffic, sailing ships and all manner of watercraft plying their trade on it. Deep water vessels were not all that common past Tower Bridge though because of the depth of water, but East of Tower Bridge it was a different story.

My own explorations of this area really takes in the area from Tower Bridge to roughly Battersea Power Station, as well as a visit to St Katherine’s Dock.  There was not a lot to see.

However, there are historic ships in that area, and this is what I am posting about. Naturally the biggest and best of them all is situated within sight of Tower Bridge, and I won’t spend too much time dwelling on her. 

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast

She often has visiting ships berthed alongside, and I was fortunate enough to catch HMS Westminster alongside. 

HMS Westminster (F237)

HMS Westminster (F237)

And more importantly, on 07/06/2016, I went down to see the RMS St Helena alongside.  It’s not every day that you get an opportunity like this one. 

RMS St Helena alongside 08/06/2016

RMS Ste Helena alongside 08/06/2016

Another famous oldie that I saw in 2008 when I was in London was the TS Queen Mary (not to be confused with the Queen Mary or the Queen Mary). She left London some time ago and has recently been returned to Scotland for preservation.

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary

There are three vessels that can be photographed from the London Eye, in no particular order they are:  PS Tattershall Castle which dates from 1934.

Tattershall Castle

Tattershall Castle

HMS President  dates from 1918 and was built as HMS Saxifrage. She is the sole representative of the first type of purpose-built anti-submarine vessels and now serves as a venue for conferences and functions, and as offices for a number of media companies. She is one of the last three surviving Royal Navy warships of the First World War.

*Update 8 August 2016*

Unfortunately, HMS President had to vacate her moorings due to the Thames Tideway Tunnel Sewer Project,  and coupled with the refusal of future lottery funding her future is looking very bleak unless enough money can be found to pay for her future berth and ongoing preservation. Scheduled to play a part in the 1918 World War 1 centenary, she may end up being scrapped instead. 

HMS President

HMS President

HQS Wellington is a former Grimsby Class Sloop dating from 1934 that served during World War 2 as a convoy escort. Since 1948 she has been permanently moored on the Thames after she was purchased to be the Livery Hall for the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. 

HMS Wellington

HMS Wellington

And if you you are fortunate you will also be able to spot the occasional tug moving up and down. I was fortunate enough to spot SWS Essex, 

SWS Essex

SWS Essex

As well as sisters Reclaim, Resource and Recovery. They are operated by Cory Riverside and are three of 4 sister ships (Recovery, Resource, Redoubt and Reclaim)






The St Helena was escorted by two Kotug tugs, and I believe these are usually based in Tilbury which was her next immediate destination. 

ZP Bear

ZP Bear

SD Seal

SD Seal

Other tugs I spotted in 2016 were:

GPS  Cervia

GPS Cervia

She was previously the Cory Environmental tug “Recruit” and had entered service with GPS Marine’s River and Light Towage fleet.

As well as Thames Vixen who is operated by the Livetts Group.

Thames Vixen

Thames Vixen

Of course there is also the Golden Hinde replica in drydock in Bankside, Southwark; don’t make the assumption that she is purely decorative, as she has undertaken a number of long voyages that are no mean feat for a ship with a 102 foot long hull!

Golden Hinde

Golden Hinde

And if you head towards Greenwich, the famous tea clipper: Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark (Greenwich)

Sadly it was also on the Thames where the Marchioness Disaster occurred in 1989, resulting in the loss of 51 people. The disaster is commemorated in nearby Southwark Cathedral.

The Thames is still an active river system, my brief visit did not even touch on the passing craft that ply up and down, seemingly without purpose, or the hordes of tourist boats, or the visiting cruise ships that come alongside HMS Belfast. This is just a glimpse of a famous river that is an integral part of the greater City of London. 

© DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 27/05/2016, more images added 09/06/2016

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:23

The Anglo Belgian War Memorial London

My original images of the Anglo Belgian War Memorial in London were taken in March 2013. It was not an easy memorial to photograph as ideally you need to be on the opposite side of the street. However, the street is so busy that it is incredibly difficult to find that crucial gap in the traffic.

The memorial may be found on the Embankment opposite Cleopatra’s Needle (which is equally difficult to photograph) Coordinates: 51°30′31.40″N, 0°07′14.26″W.

It is inscribed: “To the British nation from the grateful people of Belgium, 1914–1918”

It was unveiled by Princess Clémentine of Belgium on 12 October 1920. 

In June 2016 I was in London again and attempted to get better images but again was stumped by the traffic on the Embankment

There had been no changes to the memorial since my last visit.


The Belgian War Memorial in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery

This is not the only Belgian War Memorial in London though. There is one more in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery next to Kensal Green Cemetery in London. I photographed that one on 04/04/2013, but as I was about to get caught in a snow storm I did not take as many pics as I would have liked. 

On my 2016 trip I returned once again to St Mary’s to try get more images of this memorial. 

There is a small plot of Belgian War Graves next to the memorial.

It is a pity that there is no real way of knowing the reasons why there is a Memorial in the cemetery, although I suspect that there are quite a number of Belgian nationals buried in it. I have seen a number of Belgians buried in Southampton Old Cemetery as well as Netley Military Cemetery, there is even one buried in Johannesburg, South Africa. Such was the global reach of the world wars. 

Southampton Old Cemetery Belgian War Grave Plot

Southampton Old Cemetery Belgian War Grave Plot

© DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 07/07/2016

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:24

Photo Essay: Eye Spy the London Eye

In 2008 when I was in the UK I wanted to go on the famous “London Eye“, however there were queues to get into the ticketing queue and I gave it up. Sadly… Regretfully.

In 2013 I decided to try again, and on 12th of March I hit the queue. 

This time around the queues at the ticket office were much shorter, although the queue to get onto the thing were quite long.

Make no mistake though, the Eye is a physically large object, and from close up you can really admire the engineering that went into it.

We shuffled along, with bursts of people being led into a capsule as it passes, and then finally it was my turn and I was in!

I do not recall whether there was piped music or large and interesting noises because the view of the outside and the familiar buildings around the Thames was spectacular.

Golden Jubilee Bridge

There were some things that I really wanted to zoom into, the optical zoom on my camera was very good so I did manage to photograph the targets I really wanted.

HQS Wellington

HMS President

St Paul’s Cathedral

The Shard

Charing Cross Station

Royal Air Force Memorial

Waterloo Station

Passenger train

Unfortunately the view towards Battersea Power Station and Westminster meant trying to look through the bright sunlight (West facing?) so the pics of that area were poor.

Waterloo Bridge and Somerset House

Upriver. Houses of Parliament are on the right

BT Tower in the distance

On top of the world

Then we were heading downhill again. 

Inside the capsule

Unfortunately we had the selfie king with us who took more pics of himself than anything else. He pretty much hogged this end of the capsule and probably saw very little except the screen of his cellphone.  

London County Hall

Looking Down

The mechanism for the Eye looks surprisingly simple, but there are some intricate mechanisms at work that ensure that it can operate safely. Bear in mind that the capsules rotate as the wheel turns, and whole wheel must not turn too fast or people would not be able to climb in or out. 

The London Eye is not only an attraction, it is really a part of the vast landscape of the city. The queues may be awful, but it is worth the wait just to ride on this modern marvel.

© DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 03/03/2017

Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:55
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